So what would the Dems do with their majority? Would they declare war on Republican Gov. Bill Owens and try to pay back every left-leaning interest group, however marginal? Would state government essentially grind to a halt, as governor and legislators alike feuded interminably?
The legislative session came to an end last week, so we know the answer. It's simple. In both the Senate and the House, pragmatic, bipartisan majorities came to quick and productive agreement with Owens on the two most important pieces of business on the agenda: fixing TABOR and passing a budget.
Moreover, thanks to the new Democratic majorities, the usual ditsy bills from the far right didn't even make it out of committee, so we were spared the usual arguments about guns, gays, God, abortion, vouchers and evolution. In Colorado politics, divided government means good government. The noisy radicals of both left and right are pushed off the stage by the sensible center, the quiet majority who just want to do their jobs and go home. Come November, we'll get to vote on the bipartisan TABOR fix, which, if approved, will avert an almost-certain fiscal disaster.
So where were all of our intrepid El Paso County Republicans during the session? Working diligently for the Pikes Peak region and reaching across the aisle in a search for consensus? No, not exactly. In fact, they voted as a block against the TABOR fix, against their own governor, and against much of the local business community. There was the usual mouthing of Doug Bruce-ite slogans, like "The Guv'mint has plenty of money! There's no fiscal crisis! It's just a tax increase -- just those bureaucrats stealing your hard-earned money!" and so forth. But like it or not, our state's fiscal crisis is real and has to be resolved this year. So what's really the matter with our Republicans?
They didn't vote against the TABOR fix out of political calculation, or because the Dougster paid 'em all off. It's much worse than that. They actually believe their own nonsense. They're much farther to the right than even their often-loony constituents. Want proof? Here's a little excerpt from a recent e-mail exchange between Jeff Wright, a thoughtful Libertarian who believes that we, as a nation, may be headed for fiscal disaster, and Senate Minority Leader Mark Hillman.
Responding to a tedious little screed from Hillman, touting Bush's Social Security "reforms," Wright questioned the solvency of the existing program, and he denounced Bush's proposals as "the next bogus government plan:
"Whether Republican or Democrat, both are paving the road to hell," Wright concluded. "Don't blindly follow one paving truck over the other because one truck has a 'Republican' sticker on the back bumper."
So how did Hillman respond? Did he talk about Social Security's vital role in protecting the elderly, the solemn nature of intergenerational compacts or the importance of strengthening the existing system via personal accounts? Nope. Here's what he wrote on May 3:
You show me how to get Americans -- much less Congress -- to phase out the SS system entirely and I'm with you!
Now, how many of us would agree that Social Security should be entirely phased out? Maybe 10 percent, 15 percent of the country. It's a position that only the extreme right could love. And Hillman is generally considered to be a moderate conservative!
Folks, we're just not paying attention! These guys dress in suits, preach family values, go to church, are polite, well spoken, often funny and self-deprecating -- but they're stone-cold revolutionaries. They don't want to make government better; they just want to unmake government. And as long as our business community supports people who are fundamentally anti-business; as long as seniors vote for those who would dismantle the very system that supports their retirement; and as long as conservatives assume that someone with an "R" after his or her name is actually a conservative, we'll get what we vote for.